While scrolling through Twitter on Sunday afternoon, shortly after the NCAA announced their slew of this year’s bowl pairings, I came across a comment from a Green Wave fan saying simply:
This person is of course referring Tulane’s upcoming bowl matchup with Southern Miss and that bell they mentioned? A trophy... a three foot tall bell embossed with both teams’ logos... that used to incentivize a once-bitter rivalry.
When it was announced that the Green Wave would face the Golden Eagles in this season’s Armed Forces Bowl, a tide of old C-USA nostalgia must have swept over fans in both Louisiana and Mississippi. There was a time in which Tulane and Southern Miss squared off on a yearly basis in one of the more intense rivalries college football had to offer. The “Battle for the Bell” as it was known was a mainstay in Conference USA play from season to season but prior to last weekend most thought they wouldn’t see this contest again until 2022; the year both schools agreed to meet again.
The committee, though, issued an early reinvigoration to the game and in honor of the renewed rivalry we thought it best to take a trip down memory lane into the rich history this contest has given us through the years.
Oct. 13, 1979 - Tulane 20, Southern Miss 19
The two teams met for the first time back in 1979 when Larry Smith’s Green Wave traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to take on Bobby Collins’ Golden Eagles. In a tightly-contested game at M.M. Roberts Stadium Tulane eked out the one-point victory. The game marked not only the first win for the Wave but also one of only three victories they’ve been able to get in Hattiesburg.
Smith would leave Tulane following the 1979 season to accept a coaching gig with Arizona but not before he led the Greenies to a 9-3 record.
Sep. 6, 1980 - Southern Miss 17, Tulane 14
One year later, Southern Miss avenged the inaugural home defeat by handing the Greenies one of their own. The Superdome played host to the rivalry for the first time and in Vince Gibson’s first game as Green Wave head coach, Tulane came up just short.
The Golden Eagles got their first win in the rivalry and one of only two under Collins. Southern Miss, like Tulane had the year prior, finished the season at 9-3 and would go on to win that year’s Independence Bowl.
Sep. 19, 1981 - Southern Miss 21, Tulane 3
Oct. 16, 1982 - Southern Miss 22, Tulane 10
Oct. 22, 1983 - Tulane 14, Southern Miss 7
Oct. 13, 1984 - Tulane 35, Southern Miss 7
The Green Wave were determined to show that their narrow win a year prior was no fluke and, more importantly, that they could do it at home. Up until this point Tulane had not beaten Southern Miss in New Orleans and the idea of losing a third straight in the Superdome was not a pleasant one.
Head coach Wally English, in his otherwise quiet last season with the Wave, led the Greenies to the much-desired win. Tulane’s 35 points tied the most they’ve ever scored in the rivalry’s history (they would score as many two years later) and the 28-point win is the largest margin of victory the Green Wave has recorded to date in the series.
This game was one of few bright spots in 1984 as the Wave finished with a meager 3-9 record.
Nov. 23, 1985 - Southern Miss 24, Tulane 6
Oct. 25, 1986 - Tulane 35, Southern Miss 20
Sep. 19, 1987 - Southern Miss 31, Tulane 24
Coming in off a brutal 32-point loss to Alabama, the 0-1 Golden Eagles desperately wanted a home win over their rivals. Quarterback Ailrick Young had performed miserably against the Crimson Tide in the season opener and head coach Jim Carmody had him on a tight leash when Tulane game to town.
When Young continued to struggle against the Wave, Carmody made a decision that... as it turned out... would alter the course of football in America. He pulled Young from the game and turned to another young man who was officially listed as a member of the secondary; a then-17 year old Brett Favre.
Trailing by a couple of scores Favre, who was listed as a two-deep safety on the depth chart, came in at QB and rallied Southern Miss. He threw two touchdowns and the Golden Eagles avoided a second-straight loss to the Green Wave.
Favre would finish the season with 1,264 yards and 15 touchdowns as his team went 6-5.
Oct. 8, 1988 - Southern Miss 38, Tulane 13
Oct. 7, 1989 - Southern Miss 30, Tulane 21
Oct. 13, 1990 - Southern Miss 20, Tulane 14
Oct. 19, 1991 - Southern Miss 47, Tulane 14
Rolling in at 3-3 in Jeff Bower’s first season as Southern Miss head coach, the Golden Eagles were looking to bounce back after a disheartening loss at Memphis the week before. They were tired of playing close games as the five-point loss to the Tigers came just one week after narrowly defeating #16 Auburn by one.
There would be no close game this day. The Wave surrendered 47 points to the Golden Eagles, the most in series history at this point. Fans in Hattiesburg rejoiced at the runaway score but, as it would turn out, this would be the last game that Southern Miss would win all season.
Oct. 15, 1992 - Southern Miss 17, Tulane 7
Nov. 6, 1993 - Tulane 17, Southern Miss 15
Sep. 3, 1994 - Southern Miss 25, Tulane 10
Sep. 30, 1995 - Southern Miss 45, Tulane 0
In what was an otherwise forgettable day for Wave fans, standout QB Shaun King would see his first action for Tulane when starter Aley Demarest went down with an injury. Before a home crowd of well over 27,000 in Hattiesburg, though, it would be Southern Miss that would have the big day.
The Golden Eagles dropped more than 40 points on Tulane (something that had only been done one other time in series history up to this point) and delivered the rivalry’s first and only shutout.
1995 would be both Tulane’s and Southern Miss’ last season as independent programs. They would join C-USA together the following season.
Oct. 26, 1996 - Southern Miss 31, Tulane 28
Oct. 25, 1997 - Southern Miss 34, Tulane 13
Oct. 3, 1998 - Tulane 21, Southern Miss 7
The fall of 1998, despite being the best in Tulane’s program history, also provided the Wave with perhaps the most adversity-filled Southern Miss week they’d ever seen. King had hurt his wrist the week prior and it was unclear until gametime whether or not he would play. On top of that, students at the university were evacuated from campus due to an impending storm; Hurricane Georges that would eventually wreak havoc statewide in Louisiana. Residents in New Orleans found refuge in the Superdome: the very building that would host the game later that week.
The contest went on as planned and couldn’t have gone much better for the Green Wave. King got the nod to play and would throw a touchdown to ice the game in the second half. Tulane also got scores via the ground game and their defense in what turned out to be a complete victory over the preseason C-USA favorites and defending conference champs.
Tommy Bowden’s Tulane team would record the school’s only perfect season at 12-0.
Sep. 6, 1999 - Southern Miss 48, Tulane 14
The rivalry had taken on such a life of its own that everyone felt a trophy was needed to tie it together so the Southern Miss Alumni Foundation provided the bell that was approved by both schools. Tulane’s newfound success no doubt helped in making that decision. The 1999 game in Hattiesburg would serve as the first official “Battle for the Bell” and the Golden Eagles would waste no time claiming the new hardware from the Wave who technically got to hold onto it for a month or so in recognition of their 1998 win.
In what some at the time called the most anticipated opener in Southern Miss history, the Golden Eagles snapped Tulane’s nation-leading 13-game win streak that dated back to 1997. It was the first time in four seasons the Wave had to play without King who had moved on to the NFL and his absence was felt. New starter Patrick Ramsey threw two interceptions while Southern Miss’ Jeff Kelly tossed four TDs. The Golden Eagles rolled big to lay claim to the bell.
Southern Miss went on to win its third C-USA title under head coach Jeff Bower.
Oct. 14, 2000 - Southern Miss 56, Tulane 24
Nov. 17, 2001 - Southern Miss 59, Tulane 6
Nov. 23, 2002 - Tulane 31, Southern Miss 10
The Greenies would snag the bell for the first time when they pounded the Golden Eagles by three scores back home in New Orleans. Running back Mewelde Moore rushed for 136 yards on 32 carries and scored a touchdown. Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo opted to mix things up by putting DB Lynaris Elpheage in on offense periodically throughout the contest and it paid off. On top of an interception he notched in the game, Elpheage scored a 16-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of his career.
“I was begging the whole season [to play offense],” Elpheage later said, “and it was real, real fun.”
The win guaranteed that the Wave would see bowl action for the first time since 1998. Scelfo’s team went on to win the Hawaii Bowl later that season.
This would be the last time Tulane beat Southern Miss to date.
Nov. 15 - 2003 - Southern Miss 28, Tulane 14
Sep. 25, 2004 - Southern Miss 32, Tulane 14
The Golden Eagles came in riding high in the 2004 edition after just upsetting Nebraska a week prior. The momentum would carry over in a big way. On the first possession of the game, Southern Miss’ Trevis Coley intercepted Tulane’s Lester Ricard and set up a touchdown. From there the Golden Eagles didn’t look back. Quarterback Dustin Almond threw two touchdowns and Anthony Harris rushed for over 100 yards.
To add insult to injury for Green Wave fans, this would be the first of two wins that Southern Miss would get in the Superdome that fall. The second came when they defeated North Texas in that year’s New Orleans Bowl on Tulane’s home turf.
Nov. 26, 2005 - Southern Miss 26, Tulane 7
Nov. 11, 2006 - Southern Miss 31, Tulane 3
Oct. 24, 2009 - Southern Miss 43, Tulane 6
Southern Miss, led by head coach Larry Fedora, handed the Wave its third-largest margin of defeat in series history in 2009. It was also perhaps the most complete victory in rivalry history as the Golden Eagles recorded touchdowns via pass, run, fumble return and field goal block return. Tulane’s offense was only able to muster up a measly 54 rush yards as Southern Miss forced four turnovers.
Tulane coach Bob Toledo beautifully summed up the night in his postgame presser: “It was a comedy of errors. I about had a heart attack at halftime I was so mad.”
Nov. 6, 2010 - Southern Miss 46, Tulane 30
After scoring a mere 16 combined points in their last three meetings with the Golden Eagles, the Green Wave nearly doubled that total in 2010. Freshman running back Orleans Darkwa posted his third straight 100-yard game and Ryan Griffin threw for well over 200 yards but it was not enough.
Southern Miss running back Tracy Lampley paced the ground game with 65 yards and a score as the offense put up 358 total yards. The Golden Eagles defense buckled down in the fourth quarter in the face of a 30-30 tie and authored a defensive TD and a safety in the final frame to close out Tulane.
Fedora’s team went on to lose that year’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl to Louisville while Tulane again failed to qualify for postseason play.
This is the last time the two have gotten together and the bell hasn’t been in jeopardy of leaving Hattiesburg in nearly a decade.
While it was initially unsure whether or not this upcoming special edition game would be for the bell, on December 10 Southern Miss AD Jeremy McClain let us all know that it indeed would be...
As if we needed another reason to tune in, the bell will be in attendance! The trophy... as neat and integral to the ralviry as it is... shouldn’t be the headliner for this particular game though. The mere fact that the once-great rivalry that’s been dormant since 2010 is back should be reason enough to rejoice if you’re a Wave or a Golden Eagles fan. Sure the programs agreed to bring it back in a few years regardless but an unscheduled neutral-site installment? That’s pretty cool.
Just to make sure the tone was properly set for the game, Tulane AD Troy Dannen responded to McClain...
The Battle for the Bell is on!
Tulane and Southern Miss will kick off in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, TX on January 4 at 10:30 a.m CT on ESPN.